212 B. POLEVOI
"Here's luck to him!"
She raised her glass with a flourish, emptied it at a
gulp and at once began to cough and splutter. Her face
turned red and she could barely catch her breath.
Not having tasted vodka for a long time, Meresyev
felt the liquor go to his head and send a warm glow
through his body. He refilled the glasses, but Anyuta shook
her head resolutely.
"No, no! I don't drink. You saw what happened."
"But won't you drink good luck to me?" urged Alexei.
"If you only knew, Anyuta, how much I need it!"
The girl looked at him very gravely, raised her glass,
nodded to him with a smile, gently squeezed his elbow
and emptied the glass again, but again she coughed and
"What am I doing?" she exclaimed when, at last, she
caught her breath. "And after a twenty-four hours' spell
of duty! I am doing it only for your sake, Alyosha. You
are ... Grisha wrote a lot about you----I do wish you
good luck, I wish it very, very much. And you will have
good luck, I am certain. Do you hear what I say? I am
certain." And she broke into a merry peal of laughter.
"But you are not eating! Take some bread. Don't be shy.
I have some more. This is yesterday's. I haven't received
today's ration yet." She pushed the china bread plate
with the slices cut as thin as paper towards him. "Eat,
you silly boy, otherwise you'll get tipsy, and what will I
do with you then?"
Alexei pushed the bread plate away, looked straight into
Anyuta's eyes and at her small, full, bright red lips and
said in a low voice:
"What would you do if I kissed you?"
She gave him a frightened glance, sobering up at once.
There was no anger in her eyes, but inquiry and disap-
pointment, as if they were looking at something that a
moment ago had sparkled in the distance like a precious
stone and now turned out to be but a piece of common
"I would probably chase you out and then write Grisha
and tell him that he is a bad judge of people," she an-
swered coldly. Pushing the bread plate towards him again
she added insistently: "Eat something, you're drunk!"